Ohio Universities Defend Affirmative Action Strategies in Their Admissions - Higher Education


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Ohio Universities Defend Affirmative Action Strategies in Their Admissions

by Jamaal Abdul-Alim

Two universities that are accused in a new report of giving minority students an unfair edge in the admissions process defended their practices Tuesday as being legitimate strategies to expand access and enhance diversity on campus.

The report – titled ‘Racial and Ethnic Preferences in Undergraduate Admissions at Two Ohio Public Universities’ – was released this week by the Falls Church, Va.-based Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes race-conscious affirmative action in higher education.

The report charges that Miami University admitted Blacks over Whites at a ratio of 8 to 1 and 10.2 to 1 using SAT and ACT, respectively, as well as other factors, such as grades, gender, residency and year of admission, and that Ohio State University admitted Blacks over Whites at a ratio of 3.3 to 1 and 7.9 to 1 using the SAT and ACT, respectively.

The report also claims that MU admitted Hispanics over Whites at a ratio of 2.2 to 1 using either the SAT or ACT, and that OSU admitted Hispanic over White students at a ratio of 4.3 to 1 and 6.5 to 1 using the SAT and ACT, respectively.

The schools were also found to give a “modest degree of preference” to Asian students.

With OSU and MU released statements Tuesday saying that they look at a variety of factors that transcend a student’s race and ethnicity when doling out seats on campus.

Dolan Evanovich, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Planning at OSU, criticized the CEO study as a “very limited one that focused pretty much exclusively on standardized test scores, grade point averages and rank in class.”

He said after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Grutter v. Bollinger case that that involved the University of Michigan that affirmative action could be used in college admissions but only on a limited basis, that OSU implemented a “holistic review” for all applications.

“We look deeper than just GPA or standardized tests scores,” Evanovich said, explaining that OSU looks at things such as the strength of the applicant’s school curriculum, the rigor of the courses, the strength of their school, personal essays, work experience, leadership activities, overcoming obstacles and showing progress.

Regarding the essays, he said, “They provide great insight for the committee that’s reviewing the application to understand the individual student’s situation.

“It helps us see if the student has overcome obstacles,” Evanovich said. “They may not have had as many AP (Advanced Placement) courses as students in a more affluent community.”

A statement released by Miami University in response to the CEO study said similar things.

“Miami University’s admission policies and procedures include a comprehensive, individualized review of students,” the MU statement says. “Miami University’s admissions process considers about two dozen factors, while the report refers to only three factors (race, grades and test scores).

“Miami seeks to enroll academically ambitious students with varied backgrounds because a diverse student body contributes to a richer learning environment.”

While MU does consider race and ethnicity, the university also considers application factors such as life experiences, ideology, socioeconomic status, employment during high school, extra-curricular involvement, and whether students are first-generation college students.

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), says the statistics are evidence of discriminatory practices at the institutions.

“We think it’s important to keep the focus on the fact that this kind of discrimination is going on,” Clegg said in an interview with Diverse. “Not only that it’s going on but that it’s severe.

“Frequently,” Clegg continued, “schools suggest that race is being used simply as a tiebreaker or just one factor among many.

“We think studies like this show that it’s not the case. It makes a huge difference in determining whether you get in.”

Shirley J. Wilcher, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based American Association for Affirmative Action, dismissed the CEO report as a “very truncated, unscholarly analysis that focuses on exclusion, and it has the effect of attacking students of color.”

“This group reaches conclusions simply on data,” Wilcher said. “Why the emphasis on race when there are so many other factors and other criteria that enable some minorities to be admitted?”

Clegg says CEO’s aim is to persuade universities to reconsider their use of race and ethnicity in the admissions process.

“We hope that there will be pressure brought to bear on the university,” Clegg said. “If it resists doing the right thing on its own, we hope that the legislature will get involved,” he said.

He said in lieu of legislation, Ohio should consider passing a ballot initiative like those passed in other states, such as California and Washington that would ban public universities from discriminating on the basis of race or ethnicity in the admissions process.

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